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Shop Talk: Palo Alto's tiniest full-service restaurant

Original post made on Nov 15, 2007

CREPERIE OR CLOSET? . . . It's smaller than a walk-in closet in some Palo Alto homes, but it has a liquor license and serves crepes. It's the newest addition to downtown Palo Alto's ever-growing string of cafes. Bistro Maxine at 548 Ramona St. is so tiny, in fact, that the 13 chairs and five tables barely fit in the 312-square-foot space, only half of which is used for seating. The other half is the kitchen. How did they do it? "I can make anything fit. Size doesn't intimidate me," said Judy Chapman, a professional organizer and one of three owners of Bistro Maxine. The other two owners, Stephanie Wansek and Georges Wansek, who were once married but are now "friendly exes," have thrown themselves into their new cafe. Between the three of them, they make sure one of them is in the restaurant at all times. Bistro Maxine has an extensive menu of crepes and coffees, but a few doors down is another coffee shop, Coupa Cafe. "There is absolutely no competition. We're all here together," Stephanie said, adding, "They (Coupa) do their South American shtick; we do our French shtick." Stephanie Wansek, by the way, also manages the Cardinal Hotel, which is just steps away from Bistro Maxine. "That's how I found this place," she said. And as far as the diminutive size of the eatery, it's been confirmed. "Yep, it's the smallest one in Palo Alto with a liquor license," Palo Alto City Planner Steve Emslie said.

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